UK fresh produce industry "let down by the government," says FPC's Nigel Jenney

Nigel Jenney, the chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, has voiced serious concerns over the government's last minute Brexit deal, saying:

“Whilst it is positive that we have secured a non-tariff position for many goods of EU origin, I am extremely concerned about the substantial amount of additional administration and official inspections which the industry will have to complete.


“The magnitude of these new official requirements when exporting from the EU to the UK will have a material cost on the supply chain and beyond.”


"The UK has the reputation of being a fantastic trading nation and we will look to identify supply solutions wherever we can throughout the world."

Jenney said he hopes the industry’s customers fully appreciate the considerable efforts their supply chains are undertaking in order to support this level of administration.


"These costs simply cannot be absorbed by the supply chain, they are simply too substantial," he added.


"The UK has the reputation of being a fantastic trading nation and we will look to identify supply solutions wherever we can throughout the world. We import on average 65% of our fruit and vegetables, with Europe providing 50% of that supply, so regardless of the situation the EU will continue to be a key trading partner.


"It would appear at the moment that, unless there is some significant relaxation on the approach adopted by the EU & UK, including official fees, charges and inspections, the industry can neither avoid nor absorb these costs."


From a fresh produce point of view the key changes for fresh produce beyond customs will come into play on 1 April and 1 July.


"At the moment EU fruit, vegetables and cut flowers are not required to provide phytosanitary certificates. After 1 April, with some notable exceptions, virtually all consignments will require a phytosanitary certificate," Jenney continued.


"This will mean a huge amount of additional official inspections in Europe for these exports and subsequently potential inspections in the UK."

"Our once seamless and highly effective supply chain will become embroiled in greater levels of official administration to support trade on an ongoing basis."

"The full impact is yet to be felt by the industry," Jenney added.


"One thing the UK government could do, which it has not as yet, is to accept and implement the use of electronic phytosanitary certificates, which would ease the administrative burden on the industry by millions of pounds a year. At the moment it doesn’t appear that the government has any plans to do this."


"These issues were not identified by government officials, they were identified by the FPC and its members"

"The industry is working very hard: firstly, to try to feed the nation through Covid and to try to figure out what the initial implications of Brexit are in planning for the future.


"There are still huge issues and it is becoming very clear now that the UK customs system amendments that should have been made to allow goods to flow into the UK seamlessly on 1 January have failed to have been made.


"These issues were not identified by government officials, they were identified by the FPC and its members, who actively tried to ensure the UK government understood and fixed them as rapidly as possible to avoid the huge delays which we are seeing at various locations in the UK.


"In my point of view, whilst this is not easy, it is actually the easy bit. The industry has been let down by the government failing to prepare its own IT systems properly. The frustrating thing is that the UK government has failed to make the necessary changes to their IT systems while being fully aware of this need and this failure has had huge impact on our industry.


"We have hundreds of members whose goods are being held because the Government’s IT systems are requesting something which is contrary to the advice previously given to the industry.


"Whilst the government has had years to plan for this they have given the industry a matter of weeks but the industry has coped better with modest resources against a government which has huge resources to plan and implement these changes," Jenney concluded. For more information contact: Nigel Jenney Fresh Produce Consortium Tel: +44 (0)1733 237117 nigel@freshproduce.org.uk